December 20, 2017
Making holiday dreams come true with Crosslines.
“We want them to be the hero,” said Wes Buchholz, program coordinator for Crosslines.
Every December, Crosslines turns one of the exhibition halls on the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds into a 25,000 square-foot toy store. People start lining up hours before the doors open upon dozens of tables filled with toys for boys and girls of all ages. Volunteers direct traffic, visit with people in line and pass out hot chocolate while they’re waiting. Once inside, parents are paired with a “shopper helper” who carries their basket and helps them select at least five toys for each of their children – including an educational item like a book and a cozy knit item like socks or a scarf.
Hundreds of volunteers are onsite during the day. They’re kind of like elves, and some even dress the part. A group of girls, who have been volunteering since they were four, continue to show up dressed as Santa’s helpers even now as teenagers. Not to be outdone, the volunteers from the Queen City Beard & Mustache Club deck out their facial hair with Christmas lights and ornaments.
According to Wes, “[The] volunteers are the ones that make it happen. They are the lifeblood of what we do.”
In addition to helping with the toys, volunteers also prepare food packages for the families to take home. They’re provided with everything they need to make a full holiday meal, including sides, a turkey and dessert. They also receive items to serve for breakfast and lunch.
The Crosslines staff preps for the big event for months, working with banks throughout the Springfield area to collect toy donations from the community. They partner with Toys for Tots to provide even more toys. This year, they distributed toys to 2,300 children.
All of the Commerce Bank branches in Springfield collect toys to contribute to Crosslines. In the 3rd floor lobby of the Battlefield Banking Center, a Christmas tree goes up in early November. Overtime, a pile of presents grows until it can barely fit under the tree. Robert Gray, private banking manager, kicks it off by taking his teenage son for a shopping spree. “We’ve been doing it since 2009. The older he gets the harder it is to get him out of bed. But once we’re out shopping for the toys, he loves it.” From there, Commerce team members from different departments on the floor bring in toys, scarves and clothes.
In 2009, when they first kicked off the toy collection, the department collected 30 items. In 2016, they gathered 220.
“It’s always a joy to deliver the toys to Crosslines,” said Cozy Jones, the senior marketing specialist who gathers all of the toys collected from Commerce Bank locations. “We feel grateful for the opportunity to support Crosslines and help make the holidays a little brighter for some families in our community.”
In addition to holiday assistance around Thanksgiving and Christmas, Crosslines has operated the largest food pantry in Greene County year round since 1969 and runs a mobile food pantry from March to October. The organization also offers case management services to families in need, providing comprehensive services in conjunction with sister agencies in the Council of Churches of the Ozarks. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit Crosslines.org.